Wed, Feb 12, 2020 - Page 5 News List

Thailand refuses to allow cruise liner to disembark


People stand on balconies on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship near the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, Japan, yesterday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Thailand has become the latest country to turn a cruise ship away from one of its ports, prompting pleas for help from some of the 2,257 passengers and crew desperate to disembark after almost two weeks at sea.

Fearing that some guests aboard the MS Westerdam might be infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus, Thai Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul yesterday said on Facebook that he has directed authorities to refuse the vessel entry into a port near Bangkok.

Operated by Holland America Line, a brand owned by Miami-based cruise giant Carnival, the ship has been refused entry by at least three other ports. Guam, Manila and Yokohama, Japan, sent it away on concerns over the virus, which has killed more than 1,000 people since it was first reported late last year in Wuhan, China.

The refusal and quarantine of cruise ships is the latest effort by governments worldwide seeking to contain the outbreak.

Carnival’s Diamond Princess and its 3,700 passengers have been quarantined in the port of Yokohama as authorities battle against an increasing number of infections on board.

On board the Westerdam, passengers posted desperate messages as they learned from media outlets about Thailand’s refusal.

In a blogpost on Monday evening, Holland America Line announced that the ship was headed to Laem Chabang — about 80km east of Bangkok — where passengers would disembark and end their journey tomorrow.

The ship operator has said that the vessel is not in quarantine and it has no reason to believe there are any cases of coronavirus on board.

Holland America Line’s plight is adding to Carnival’s woes sparked by the virus.

Holland America and Carnival did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

The Westerdam departed Hong Kong on Feb. 1 on a 14-day Taiwan and Japan cruise.

With 1,455 guests and 802 crew, the passengers were originally scheduled to disembark at Yokohama on Saturday, blogposts on Holland America Line’s Web site said.

The ship has sufficient fuel and food provisions to last until the end of the voyage, an earlier blogpost said.

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